10/16/07 8:25 PM ET
Boxer Pavlik a big hit with Indians
Ohio native throws first pitch before Game 4 of ALCS
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
What the middleweight boxing star didn't anticipate was having a few of Cleveland's players throw punches his way. That's the kind of welcome that "The Ghost" received from outfielder Kenny Lofton and some of his Indians teammates.
"Victor Martinez and Kenny wanted to shadowbox a little bit," laughed Pavlik, who grew up roughly 80 miles from Cleveland in Youngstown, Ohio.
Pavlik was on hand at Jacobs Field to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for Game 4 of the American League Championship Series -- a ritual that's becoming old hat for the local boxer. After knocking out Edison Miranda in May, Cleveland invited the local puncher to the ballpark to take part in the pregame festivities a couple weeks later.
Pavlik, who's compiled a 32-0 record with 29 knockouts, admittedly was nervous the first time around. He didn't think jitters would be an issue this time, even though he'd be aiming for a strike on the October stage.
"I was a little low and left," said a grinning Pavlik, recalling his first throw. "There was a little scuff mark on the ball. We haven't had time to work on it, but I think this time we'll aim for over the catcher.
"It's kind of fun to just get out there. The only thing is you really don't want to embarrass yourself too much. That's the main thing. At first, I think I was nervous. This time, I'm not as worked up. I think I'll be fine."
After waving to the crowd, which offered Pavlik loud cheers when he was introduced before the game against the Red Sox, he took his place on the mound. Pavlik, who attended Lowellville High School and played Class B summer baseball as a kid, fired a pitch to Cleveland second baseman Josh Barfield that was a little outside, but had some zip on it.
Maybe the time the 25-year-old Pavlik spent with the Indians prior to the game helped put him at ease. He said he talked boxing with Travis Hafner, C.C. Sabathia, Casey Blake, and Kelly Shoppach, among others. Pavlik wanted to talk baseball, but all the Indians could talk about was his latest bout.
On Sept. 29, Pavlik stunned Jermain Taylor in Atlantic City with a seventh-round TKO, claiming the WBC and WBO middleweight belts in the process. Taylor knocked Pavlik to the ground in the second round, but the wiry boxer was able to recover and deliver a flurry of decisive punches in the final round.
"It was amazing," Pavlik said. "To see that a lot of those guys watched my fight and are fans, that was just neat to be in there with them. I watched some of those guys play for years and the last couple years I've been watching them play. I'm a huge fan of the Cleveland Indians."
And the Indians are big fans of his. Come late January or early February, many of Cleveland's players will probably be watching Pavlik's next fight, which he said pits him against John Duddy.
Another win and Pavlik may have another trip to Jacobs Field in store.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.